Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The colors of a family - latimes.com

The colors of a family - latimes.com

"He's so cute," the woman said. "Whose baby is he?"

The question shocked me.

I was holding my 1-year-old, ambling about downtown with some friends. White friends. She must have thought my boy belonged to one of them.

There's a simple explanation: I'm black but my son, Ashe, is white. At least he looks it.

This surprised us. When Ashe was born, one of the first things I said to Vanashree was, "Honey, he's so light!" We chuckled, poking fun at our assumptions.

We had thought our newborn would have skin more like mine. We also figured I would teach him the lessons my parents taught me as I grew up in the 1960s and '70s: Be proud of being black; but be ready, because you will always have to find a way around barriers large and small.

My son won't need those lessons.

He'll have what I can only imagine: white privilege.

That means in most of America, most of the world, when he walks into a room filled with strangers, he'll have nothing to prove. He will be assumed to be smart, trustworthy and reasonable.

It's different for me. Take a look at recent studies of our subconscious attitudes about race. (The University of Chicago's Shooter Test or Harvard's Implicit Association Test are two examples.)

We've obviously come a long, long way when it comes to this, but when I meet strangers, most of the time I have to prove myself. Am I smart, trustworthy, reasonable? That's not necessarily assumed. It's the same, I dare say, for all black people.

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